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Colin McDonald

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Boosting staff efficiency through elearning: A guide for small businesses


Elearning doesn't have to be the preserve of big business, you know. Learndirect's Colin McDonald outlines a few pointers for small enterprises.
With the holiday season only just ended many small- and medium-sized businesses will be hoping the festive period brought a bit of cheer after tough trading times throughout 2011. Although the economy is forecast to grow in 2012 there are still many uncertainties, not least what happens next in the Eurozone.
With such tough conditions SMEs need to do all they can to remain competitive and provide quality goods and services. One way of doing this is ensuring they are making the most of their staff – boosting productivity, delivering high levels of customer service and ensuring everyone contributes to the success of the business. Training staff to meet business goals can really make a difference to meeting customer expectations and ultimately the success of the business.
Research shows many businesses are crying out for a more skilled workforce [1], but with numerous decisions to be made on prioritising budgets, employers need to find flexible training solutions which give them the best return against their investment. However, with new government plans to provide funding for staff training [2], businesses of all sizes will have the opportunity to bid for training methods which best work for them. 
"Organisations already making the most of learning technologies report significant benefits, including cost savings, time savings and an increase in the volume of learning delivered."
Elearning provides a cost-effective and flexible solution for businesses looking to provide staff with the skills needed for a thriving business. From improving basic skills in maths, English and IT, to more targeted courses in things like customer service, sales and marketing and health and safety. Whatever the subject, it's clear elearning is becoming an integral part of training solutions for businesses. 
According to the Towards Maturity Benchmark Study, 78% of organisations now use some form of elearning within their businesses and of those, more than half plan to increase their use in the next 12 months. This clearly highlights that businesses believe the benefits of this training method [3]. Organisations already making the most of learning technologies report significant benefits, including cost savings, time savings and an increase in the volume of learning delivered. In particular, businesses talk about the flexibility of elearning, ease of access and how it can reduce the amount of time employees spend away from their day-to-day work. 
So how can small businesses go about deciding what type of training will work best for them? Based on our experience of working with more than 6,000 organisations to help them boost staff efficiency through learning, here are our five steps employers should take into consideration when looking to invest in staff training:
  • Aim to meet long-term strategic goals, as well as short-term needs. While it can sometimes be challenging to think beyond the day-to-day operations of your business, to effectively nurture the talent in your organisation you need to incorporate your training into long-term business plans
  • Be realistic about the level of resource and budget required for training, but don't be put off because of perceived costs. From January businesses may be able to bid for government funding to put towards a training programme. It's also important to consider that devoting budget to developing the skills of your existing staff can prove more cost-effective than recruiting from outside further down the line
  • Think carefully about what you want your employees to learn. With a huge selection of courses out there to choose from, make sure you take time to consider the skills which are going to benefit both the learner's personal development and the efficiency and productivity of your business
  • Identify individual learning requirements and have a formal training plan which reflects the skill gaps of individuals. Make the most of tailored training as opposed to a one-size-fits-all approach as this will be most beneficial to your business
  • Consider your training delivery methods and match this to your business. Online learning is more flexible and cost effective, allowing for training to be planned around individual staff workloads.

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Colin McDonald is head of learning at learndirect. He has more than 15 years of experience in the industry, developing online learning solutions to help provide businesses and individuals with the skills needed to succeed


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